River tubing, beautiful scenery and magic mushrooms. Any of these strike your fancy? If so, we have your perfect travel guide to Vang Vieng with our backpacker’s guide on the best things to do in Vang Vieng, Laos.
The Best Things To Do In Vang Vieng, Laos
Where is Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng is located in Vientiane Province, about a five-hour bus ride North of Vientiane and about a five to six hour bus ride south of Luang Prabang.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Vang Vieng is from from around October to late April.
These months are Laos’s dry-season and the more pleasant months in terms of heat. However, March – April are considered some of the hottest months in all of Laos. You’ve been warned 🙂
If you are visiting Laos from May to September, these months are Laos’s wet season. Meaning, if you are in Vang Vieng during these months, activities like tubing or visiting the caves could be difficult as Nam Song River waters rise and can be dangerous.
How To Get To Vang Vieng From Luang Prabang
The only way to get to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang is by mini-bus or VIP-bus.
The ride can take anywhere from 5 – 6 hours and can be booked through your accommodation once in Luang Prabang or online. It’s best to book a few days prior to your departure to ensure you get the date and time you want.
Depending which option, you choose, mini-van or VIP bus, your pickup options will be a direct pickup from your hotel in Luang Prabang or a departure from Luang Prabang’s southern bus station.
If you are departing from Luang Prabang’s southern bus station, you can easily hire a songthaew (tuk-tuk) to take you to the bus station an hour before your departure.
How To Get To Vang Vieng From Vientiane
Once in Vientiane, you can catch a VIP-bus or mini-van north to Vang Vieng. The ride takes around 4 to 5 hours and can easily be booked through your Vientiane accommodation or online.
If you book 2 to three 3 days before your desired departure date, you shouldn’t have a problem securing transportation.
Bus Travel in Laos
Regardless where you are departing from, Luang Prabang or Vientiane, you can expect your bus to stop once along the way. This stop is for bathroom breaks and for food. Depending on where you stop, you’ll be able to buy some snacks, water or a hot meal.
Once you arrive into Vang Vieng, you’ll be dropped off at the bus station in town or directly at your accommodation. If you want to be dropped off directly at your accommodation, a mini-van is the only option to do this and make sure you negotiate this ahead of time prior to your departure.
A VIP-busses will drop you off at the bus station and then you can either walk or catch a songthaew (tuk-tuk) to your accommodation.
LAOS BUS TIP: Busses to Vang Vieng are notorious for making travelers become motion sick. The ride can be rough and windy so if you are prone to motion sickness, it will be in your best interest to take medication ahead of time, like Dramamine.
Is Vang Vieng Worth Visiting?
If you ask us, yes, Vang Vieng is 100% worth visiting! The reason we say that is because Vang Vieng has a little bit of everything for everyone.
If you want to party your brains out, Vang Vieng is for you. If you want to get out in nature to do some kayaking, hiking or rock climbing, Vang Vieng is for you. If you are looking to take it easy and chill, Vang Vieng is for you.
Basically, every day in Vang Vieng can be a little different than the day before and that’s exactly what we LOVED about it! We took in beautiful views, partied into the night, swam in blue lagoons during the day and relaxed.
Vang Vieng can be stereotyped as a backpacker hotspot that breads mass tourism and raging parties and while all that is true, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what is hardly talked about when it comes to Vang Vieng, it’s scenery.
You can experience beautiful karst mountains, lush rice fields and some beautiful viewpoints. So, like we said above, Vang Vieng has a little something for everyone and in our opinion is well worth the trip!
What To Do In Vang Vieng
1) Cool Off at a Blue Lagoon
There are 3 Blue Lagoons for you to choose from when in Vang Vieng.
- Blue Lagoon 1: The closet blue lagoon to the city center of Vang Vieng and because of that, Blue Lagoon 1 tends to be the most popular with tourists and the most crowded of the three lagoons in Vang Vieng.
- Blue Lagoon 2: 7km (4 miles) away from Blue Lagoon 1, you’ll find sunny Blue Lagoon 2. Blue Lagoon 2 tends to be the least visited of the three Lagoons in Vang Vieng. So, if you are looking to relax, Blue Lagoon 2 is a good option.
- Blue Lagoon 3: Blue Lagoon three is the one we visited and the best lagoon in Vang Vieng of the three. Of course, that’s our humble opinion :). Get our full take on Blue Lagoon 3 below.
About Blue Lagoon 3
Blue Lagoon 3 is about an hour tuk-tuk ride (17km / 10 mile) ride from town. Fair warning, you’re in for a bumpy ride into the countryside, but it’s a great ride at that!
You’ll pass through small villages and see rural life of Laos. Kids playing in rice field, water buffalos grazing and woman and men tending to their daily duties.
Once you arrive at Blue Lagoon 3, you see what a beautiful spot it is! You can rent inner tubes and float in the lovely emerald waters, buy some food from the small café on site, sip a few Lao Lao beers and take your turn on the zip line.
In Vang Vieng, Blue Lagoon 3 is a perfect spot to beat the heat and humidity of Laos and chill for the day. Simplicity at its finest if you ask us!
Blue Lagoon 3 Tips:
- The best way to get to Blue Lagoon 3 is to hire a tuk-tuk or rent motorbike. Renting a bicycle is not recommend as the roads are not paved and really bumpy.
- Tuk-Tuk Cost: Every tuk-tuk ride ride is negotiable! Recruit people from your accommodation to split the fair to Blue Lagoon 3 to make it a little cheaper for everyone.
- Blue Lagoon 3 Entrance Fee: 10,000 KIP ($1.15 USD)
2) Learn to Rock Climb in Laos
Hire a guide from a rock-climbing school, such as Adam’s Climbing School, and head out into the Laos countryside! Whether you’re a novice or an expert, there are climbing routes for everyone.
Adams’ Climbing School offers half-day trips ($25), full-day trips ($35) and even a 3-day course ($165).
3) Watch The Sunset From Smile Beach Bar
Smile Beach Bar is a must visit when in Vang Vieng. A small little beach bar that serves us buckets of alcohol, yes buckets. Head to Smile Beach Bar in the afternoon and stay for sunset.
Grab a bucket or just a beer, make your way to the river, grab a hammock and enjoy a super chill sunset on the banks of the Nam Song River.
Take a dip in the river and watch the sun fade. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see a hot air balloon or two fly over. Super simple and a great way to pass the afternoon.
4) Get Spacey At Space Bar
The name is Tifalcony Restaurant but let’s be honest, people aren’t coming here for the food.
Tifalcony Restaurant aka Space Bar is a café located in the main stretch of Vang Vieng that has quite an extensive menu of offerings. Helium balloons, opium, weed and mushrooms are all for sale on the food menu.
From magic mushrooms shakes, to magic mushrooms coffees and pizza, your options for an “elevated” time are endless. Order a hand-rolled joint to your table along with a side of French Fries then chill on Space Bars elevated bamboo platforms that have plush pillows.
That is all. Proceed at your own risk. Enjoy Responsibly.
TIP: Be careful leaving Space Bar. Drug use is not as nearly accepted in Vang Vieng as it used to be. Cops are on the lookout to bust tourists and charge hundreds of dollars in penalties or throw you in jail. Also, if you decide to dabble in something off the Space Bar menu, do so in small increments. Wait to see what happens and then decide if you want to order some more.
5) Ride a Hot Air Balloon in Laos
If you are wanting to see Vang Vieng from above, Balloons Over Vang Vieng operates hot air balloon rides during Laos dry season. A 40-minute flight will cost you about $90 USD and each flight holds around 8 people.
Balloons Over Vang Vieng operate six flights a day, three at sunrise and three at sunset.
You can book your Vang Vieng air balloon ride a day or two in advance directly with a tour agency in town or through your accommodation.
6) Hike Phangern Mountain
If Vang Vieng Air Balloons are not for you, no worries! You can still get exceptional views of the area. By hiking to the viewpoint of Phangern Mountain. Located a few miles outside of Vang Vieng, you can bike, scooter or walk the long walk there.
Costing a 10,000 kip ($1.15 USD) for an entrance ticket, it’s short 30 minute, but steep hike from the trail head to the top. At the top, you’ll have amazing views of Vang Vieng!
7) Rent A Bike And Go
If you’re looking to get into the local side of things, renting a bike for the day is a great way to experience the quitter and natural side of Vang Vieng.
Don’t rent any ordinary bike, make sure you rent a mountain bike! The roads are not that great, and the ride can be a huge pain in the butt, literally.
From Vang Vieng, head up Route 13 or take to the trails on the west side of the Nam Song. You’ll take in beautiful views of mountains, fields and farm life. A great way to spend a few hours 🙂
8) Experience River Tubing in Laos
Let’s be honest. The main event and why majority of tourist come to Vang Vieng is to spend a day tubing the Nam Song River.
The idea is simple, pay for an inner tube (55,000 kip + a 60,000 deposit), get dropped off at the river via Tuk-Tuk, get in the inner tube and float from bar to bar down the Nam Song River. Done and done.
As you float down the river, handfuls of bars offer drink promotions, bar games and bump music to take your day drinking up a notch. The fun that you have along the way and the people you meet and party with are AMAZING.
TIP: Be sure to take the white and black route, NOT the yellow route. The yellow route takes you away from the bars, not to the bars.
Nightlife and Bars
Gary’s Irish Bar
If you are looking for a more laid-back night out, Gary’s Irish Pub is your place. Gary’s is setup with a pool table, dart board, football on tv and decent western fare. A great place to grab a table and drink some Lao Beer with your buddies while you listen to live music.
Drink Triple. See Double. Act Single. The slogan of Sakura Bar and the bright orange tank Jesse wore everywhere, great. #marraigegoals.
Beer pong tables and strong Lao Lao Whiskeys is the start of your night out. Sakura Bar’s shot promotions, drink special and dance parties make Sakura Bar a nightlife staple in Vang Vieng.
The bar that everyone ends their night at is Viva Pub. For some reason, there is this unwritten rule that everyone from Sakura Bar migrates to Viva Pub at midnight or a little after.
The beer pong tournaments and dancing continue here till the early morning. Viva Pub is a sure-fire way to have a great time, make friends and then forget it by the morning.
Vang Vieng Deaths
This once small town exploded with tourism in the early 2000’s when river tubing became its main attraction. However, crackdowns have happened ever since 2011 when 27 tourists died on the river. The Laos Government was forced to implement stricter rules to keep tourists safe.
Accidents still happen, especially when mixed with heavy drinking and water. To this day, deaths in Vang Vieng still happen and these tourist deaths are mostly due to accidental drownings or diving head first into rocks from too much partying on the river.
The best tip for safety on the river is to monitor your alcohol intake on the river and avoid jumping off rocks into the river at all costs.
Is Vang Vieng Safe?
Vang Vieng is a relatively safe destination in Laos. Like everywhere, petty theft and scams can happen. Vang Vieng is no different.
Our best advice is to be aware of your belongings, meaning don’t tempt fate by leaving your valuables out in the open for everyone to see.
Trust your gut, always. If something doesn’t seem right, more than likely you’re getting ripped off. If you decide to partake in the drug scene, do so at your own risk. As stated above, drug use is much stricter than it used to be. Violators could be slapped with hefty fines or jail time if caught.
Our biggest tip for safety is to buy travel insurance. Something we had when we were in Vang Vieng is Travel Insurance through World Nomads. It protected us from any potential tubing injury, illness and theft. Travel Insurance is essentially a comprehensive protection plan to protect you from whatever trouble may come your way.
Enter your information below to find a policy that is right for you.
For The Budget Conscious: If you are looking for a cheap, clean and social accommodation, Vangvieng Rock Backpackers Hostel is for you! To its friendly staff, comfy beds and social activities you’ll find a lot to like at Rock Backpackers.
For The Luxury Inclined: Riverside Boutique Resort is located on the Nam Song River. From its stylish ethnic decor to its beautiful pool and views, Riverside Boutique is a gem located in the heart of Vang Vieng, Laos.
For Something In Between: Maylay Guesthouse is centrally located offering private, air-con rooms and a great breakfast. A perfect place to recharge after a day out.
For more places to stay in Vang Vieng, you can check out the latest places and prices here.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)